Teamster strength grows with member involvement

Secretary-Treasurer's Report - Winter 2012

I have never been prouder of all Teamster members in California, and especially Local 853 members. As the elections took center-stage in our work, you stood up and took on the fight against the right-wing billionaires who were out to silence us.

More than 1,800 Local 853 members registered to vote, joining our already registered members in their ability to make their voice heard at the polls. Many of our members also made sure that their family members were registered and understood the importance of voting against Proposition 32, and voting for the many candidates who we supported throughout the state and nation.

The overwhelming response from our members and their families made the difference in defeating the horrendous Prop 32. It also ensures that we maintained and enhanced our influence with our government leaders who, at the very least, do not look to hurt working people, and hopefully, will work with us to improve the laws and statutes that impact union families.

Besides just registering, many of our members stepped up and walked precincts, put signs in their windows and lawns, and, most importantly, joined DRIVE.

This will not be our last fight. Workers will be attacked again. Fortunately, each time, we get stronger and more able to fight. My sincere thanks to all of our great members.

Ups and downs around the Local

As always, our membership has experienced good and bad this year. Starting with the negative, we have seen the iconic Hostess company close down and put 7,000 Teamsters out of work. Our Local represented about 200 people at Hostess who fought for years to keep the company afloat by giving up wages, benefits and working conditions. Unfortunately, what our members could not do was make the management decisions needed to make this company competitive and viable in today’s business environment. We kept the company alive for a long time, extending our members’ employment, but in the end, bad management and greed from investors put them out of business.

We also lost the battle at VWR, which closed down and transferred their distribution business to Visalia, after 60-plus years of operating in Brisbane. We are still fighting this move legally, but the fact remains that we have members out of work.

On the positive side, Local 853 continues to lead the way in organizing new members into our union during this last year. More than 300 Durham and MV Transportation members got first-time contracts by voting to be represented by Local 853. Also, employees at Steeler, Inc. and at a Dannon Yogurt plant were organized; Steeler got their first contract and the Dannon contract is currently in negotiations. We welcome these new Teamsters.

Over in the construction division of our Local, when Bode Concrete sold to Central Concrete, we were able to maintain all of our members’ jobs due to our strong contract in the ready-mix industry. Additionally, a number of new companies have signed up to work on the various infrastructure projects that are happening in our area.

Our membership is Local 853’s greatest strength. The more new members who join us, the stronger we get.

We had a tremendous turnout for our membership appreciation meeting on the first Saturday in November. As always, this meeting is scheduled at this time, which usually precedes election day on the following Tuesday. Our members were enthusiastic, appreciative of their sisters and brothers, and always interested in what has been happening in all of our diverse workplaces. Of course, they also like the gifts! It was a fun day. Make sure you mark it on your calendar for November 2, 2013, if you didn't remember to attend this year.

I want to wish all of you and your families happy, healthy, and safe holidays.